All studies on women’s happiness in the past found single moms to be less happy than other groups of women, especially married moms. A recent study which was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, however, reveals that moms who are raising children on their own don’t lag as much behind as they used to.
The study which was led by John Ifcher from the Santa Clara University and Homa Zarghamee from the Barnard College is based on cross sectional data of the General Social Survey, covering the period between 1972 and 2006. Upon comparing the data, the researchers found that single moms got happier over time, while other women – most notably single childless women – exhibited a lower degree of happiness. According to Ifcher and Zarghamee, single moms are still less happy than other groups of women but they also emphasized that they found no statistically significant difference in the happiness level between single mothers and childless single women. Happiness gap between single and married moms, however, has shrunk less.
Ifcher and Zarghamee said there are several possible explanations for the closing happiness gap between single mothers and other groups of women. They pointed out to the welfare reform that was introduced in the 1990s as well as the fact that a growing number of single moms are raising children with partners. But they also noted that being a single mom is no longer accompanied with as much stigma as it used to be in the past. The researchers explained that single parenthood is becoming increasingly common as about a quarter of American children are raised by a single parent, most often mothers. For a comparison, there were only 7 percent of single parent households in 1960.
According to the researchers, single motherhood isn’t completely free of stigma and single parent households are often viewed as broken families. There is also a widespread misconception that single mothers are young irresponsible women although as Ifcher and Zarghamee emphasized, the latest statistics show that teenage birth rates are declining, while the number of babies born to older working women is rising. Also, there is an increase of divorces, while many single moms are single parents by choice. And as the findings of the Pew Research Center reveal, single motherhood is considered a lesser problem by young adults than by the elderly.
In addition to trying to identify the reasons for the shrinking happiness gap between single mothers and other groups of women, Ifcher and Zarghamee also focused on the reasons for lower level of happiness among women who are raising children on their own. They said that the persisting stigma of single motherhood probably still plays an important role due to the above mentioned reasons. Also, as sole earners, single mothers are more likely to be affected by financial difficulties. But according to Ifcher and Zarghamee, being single is the number one reason for the happiness gap between single and married moms. This also explains why they didn’t find any statistically significant difference in happiness level between single mothers and childless single women.
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